Jim Nason
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Flame - A Poem from ‘Rooster, Dog, Crow’

Rooster learned to swallow flames

by watching Swan in bright red suit. Crooked Swan,

Orangutan King smirked. Such a nasty woman.

On top of his stilt-legs draped in pink fringe, wearing

green-gold head feathers and red tail extensions, Rooster

juggled a ballet, a coin, and his new torch. Crow hovered

over the wind-bent lake, circled the wharf, plunged for the coin.

Dog jumped up and grabbed Rooster’s hat, raced back

and forth with it clenched in his jaw. Waves broke

over the pier. Rooster arched back, raised the torch.

At first, a strong gust stretched trembling fire out

toward the ring of people. Come closer, he said, clicking

along slats of the pier. I’m working here. I could be

robbing houses, Rooster cried, Yours! and held up

the flame. A few people laughed. Dog, hat in jaw,

herded them as they dug into pockets and purses.

Crow, using her best engineering skills, dropped

the coin from fourteen feet directly into Dog’s

begging hat. The crowd guffawed and applauded.

Lake tossed sheets of light over the pier.

Rooster bent into the wind, pink fringe of stilts

flapping like shredded flags. Then the flame shot

back a blanket of burning light. Crow’s caw,

from the cave of her throat, caused an encore

of gasps and claps. Dog, thumped his tail,

thick as a dock rope, against the pier. Rooster,

covered in flames, tilted on his stilts, remembered,

as Dog shoved him into the lake: Swan did not

quiver, she inhaled a volcano of rage, leaned into

the gap of the next question as if the floor

were about to break open, as if she were

about to be swallowed – red and burning and whole.


 

2017 ReLit Long Shortlist for Poetry - Touch Anywhere to Begin

 

BLUE CANDELABRA

Once, my friend Lisa, sober and naked,

placed a ladder on her bed, climbed up and brought a snake

down from the dusty attic.  She named him Oscar.

She knew it was a him by the skin of it, she said, by the heft

and firmness of it, by the way the snake coiled around her chest

and how she was afraid, but held. 

 

Always looking to the flaw in the mirror,

mistake on the typed page, weakness in my pushed

and stretched body – envy is a form of hatred,

the many-armed shadow, the flickering light

across my desk.  I want to be fearless, the one

who climbs stark-naked to the ceiling, makes friends

with darkness, caresses the loveless snake

‘til it sighs, then releases.

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